Fae Farm is our latest addition to the cozy game farming simulation genre, and yes, it is certainly a game with both farming and fae! The second game of studio Phoenix Labs, Fae Farm aims to bring something different to the table of farming simulation. To be quite honest, I’m surprised no one has tried to put a fae twist on a farming game already. It feels like a real missed opportunity being corrected just now. So does Fae Farm deliver a whole new magical experience? Let’s flutter into the Fae Farm review.
Fae Farm Review: A sprightly introduction to a lively world
Like in many games of this genre, opening the game and starting your first save brings you to the customization screen. Fae Farm‘s customization is mixed for me. There are some great accessibility options. You can choose from four body types, use masculine or feminine voices without limitations, give yourself a hijab, and choose your pronouns between he/him, she/her, or they/them. There’s also some neat facial paint marking options, and a good spread of colors to choose from. On the flipside, however, you only get four eye and eyebrow options and a somewhat limited choice of hairs.
The art style of Fae Farm is mixed as well. I think it’s cute, the physical scenery is great, it’s definitely its own style. It’s not bad by any means, but the characters look better in the artwork than as 3D models. It feels like it leaves some things to be desired.
Fae Farm doesn’t hold any surprises from the forefront about what kind of game it is. It’s a farming simulator with magical elements. It’s very Stardew Valley like, with romanceable NPCs, seasons, festivals, and dungeons to explore. You’ll be building furniture, crafting supplies, catching critters, the works. You’ll also get to cast spells, which is a neat little addition to stand apart from its cousins and siblings.
Fae Farm Gameplay and mechanics review: A farming sim is a farming sim, but with magic too
Overall, Fae Farm has competent mechanics for its genre. You can move around, fish, catch bugs, craft, mine and harvest, so on. There are a few convenience features I especially like about the game. For one, each of the usual tools- pickax, axe, scythe, watering can, etc- are all condensed into one button that changes automatically based on what your mouse is targeting. The only two tools you would expect to be part of that rotation that are instead their own button is the fishing pole and the bug net. This makes sense, as you can’t hover your mouse over critters like a tile.
I also like that when your health, mana, and energy bars get low, the game will prompt you to press 1 to consume something in your inventory to get these bars back up. Incredible feature idea that saves a lot of the inconvenience of manually opening your inventory to consume an item. The keybinds and interfacing with the storage and crafting menu are more clunky with muscle memory. The button to select how many to craft is the same as the confirmation button, so I keep clicking cancel below it on accident. I have to keep staring at the screen to remember which keyboard button will auto transport into storage because it’s not right click.
The movement in this game is very satisfying to me. Your character runs around with an energetic bounce in their step which is delightful to watch. You can just dive in and out of water and jump on and off cliffs. It’s mostly smooth in a way you can get a feel for and I love diving out of the water onto land like some dolphin transforming into a person in midair.
I especially enjoy catching critters. The bees and frogs are so cute I can’t resist trying to nab every one with my net. It’s a small detail, but I also enjoy that crafting stations have a little gift box when you have materials ready. It’s a good reminder to grab your stuff presented in a very cute way. One of the more unique mechanics that sets it apart from other farming simulators is the seasons have a hot and cold mechanic. If it’s too hot in the summer, you need to use cooling drinks or else you’ll drain energy more easily and need to stop frequently. That’s a fun integration of realism and game mechanics that feels appropriate for a farming game.
The map and navigation are not my favorite, but not the worst. The map is small enough that you can generally get a feel for where things are without checking the map constantly, but isn’t detailed. It only tells you what area you’re in, not precisely where you are. This means you’ll be pinning objectives and teleporting as a more efficient means of figuring out where to go. I do love the purple mushrooms littered through the map that you can bounce on to climb up a level. Those are a great addition to make getting around easy and very satisfying to use.
I like dungeon exploring in farming simulators, so the game’s first dungeon area, the Saltwater Mines, were a highlight for me. The enemies got progressively more overwhelming as I ventured down, making it relevant to stock up on supplies in a way that felt natural. Yet compared to say, Stardew Valley, it still feels lacking. All the rooms are just rooms with a bunch of rocks to mine in them and some enemies. They don’t allow you to explore a more spread out and winding room to find the switch and exit. They’re just circles. It feels like a lot more can be done with this than what we get.
However, the Dungeon Seals are a great mechanic. As you progress the floors, you craft seals made out of more and more complex materials to make each room teleportable to in the future. This makes it easy to save your progression, and you can also do it with spots around the overall map.
Overall, the gameplay loop is decent. At a few points I ran out of things to do for the day, but it layers on different quests and mechanics to do as the day goes on pretty well that you won’t be left standing around too much.
The combat is exactly what it should be for this kind of game. It’s minimalistic and simple, but the spells add another layer that makes for a bit more excitement. I just think overall the game is too slow to get into its most exciting parts. Sometimes I was also left confused on what to do next because the quest logs don’t explain in enough detail exactly how to achieve the next objective.
Story: A choice visitor to the island of fae
Fae Farm opens in a very fun and colorful series of artworks with an accompanying rhyming poem. It tells the story of a person who finds a message in a bottle telling them of a distant island in need. This spurs the protagonist to set sail and find this land, only to have their boat destroyed by a whirlpool. Yet getting along by just the wreckage, once the storm clears they find themselves just off the coat of the island they’re looking for, and so make their way to safety. These artworks continue to happen during important story beats, and they’re wonderful to look at.
From here, it’s a very standard farming simulation game premise. The mayor welcomes you to the isle of Azoria and gives you a home to get started in. You meet the villagers, do tasks for them, and start to make friends. There’s some ominous intrigue going on like the fact the island is trapped by persistent whirlpools and you can’t leave, or the fact there are a bunch of dark thorny vines and patches of dark fog around the place for you to remove.
There’s no hint or mention of actual fae until you are several hours into the game, and it’s only after that the story really gets started. Until then, you’re just kind of going through the typical gameplay setup story motions for a farming simulator. For a game called Fae Farm, I found myself asking at multiple points, ‘where are the fae?’.
Like said before, I think the game’s a bit too slowly paced. There should be far more hints and traces of fae near the beginning for players to be eager for. The meat of the game is somewhat more exciting, but if it takes that long to get into the exciting stuff, it would do well to do more with the premise of a magical fae island without overwhelming the player.
The characters certainly have a little popout of personality and are all quite friendly. The ones that stand out to me are the Mayor Merritt, whose way of standing around watching you complete tasks during the tutorial and being very invested in your progress made me think she had an ulterior motive, and the Wizard Alaric, whose personality simply stuck out for being more awkward. I also appreciate how the NPCs are so varied in skintones that no one range sticks out as the majority. There’s also a character in a wheelchair, which is a nice touch.
The fae characters are more memorable for obvious reasons. They’ve got more variety and more going on with really nice designs for some of them, and I found them very charming. Beyond that, there’s not much I can say about the characters. They work for the type of game they’re in, and we get to learn about some relationships between the two. There’s also several you can romance, including some of the fae. Now we’re talking.
Fae Farm Review: Solid foundation, but not quite as magical as it could be
In my honest review, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t mildly disappointed with Fae Farm in practice as compared to my expectations. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad game, nor does it feel as lacking as Palia, but it still doesn’t feel like everything it should be. Is it worth 60 dollars? Not in the slightest. Is it worth the adjusted 40 dollars? Debatable. Personally it feels more like a 20 dollar game to me.
Still, in review, Fae Farm is a decent enough game with some very solid ideas. If you liked Stardew Valley, you’ll find familiarity with Fae Farm. It’s main problem is the game wasn’t that invigorating until several hours in, and I really feel like this kills a lot of its possible momentum. It’s not a game I feel too compelled to play, at least by myself. But it’s trying to do something a little different, and if that different is your sort of different, it may be worth getting past that initial grind to explore the deeper and more magical secrets of the island.